During open-heart surgery, the breastbone (sternum) must be cut. Surgeons typically rejoin the sternum by sewing it shut with wires. While this technique works well for most patients, it's not always effective for those who have had multiple open-heart procedures, older patients and other high-risk cases. The sternum may not heal correctly, leaving the patient susceptible to infection.
A technique called sternal plating — developed at the University of Chicago Medicine — reduces the risk of post-operative infection. Other benefits include less pain after surgery, easier breathing and shorter hospital stays.
In sternal plating, surgeons attach specially designed titanium plates to the sternum to fix the edges of the sternum securely. Our plastic surgeons, cardiac surgeons and physician assistants worked together to develop and refine this technique for stabilizing the breastbone, which has resulted in a dramatic decrease in post-operative infections in high-risk patients.